Javid found that allowing the development “would result in a fundamental and adverse alter to the character of the landscape” and would threaten the identity of the village of Bierton.

Developer Hallam Land Management had proposed building an urban extension on 117 hectares of farmland between the eastern edge of Aylesbury and the village of Bierton. The plans included homes and a ‘community hub’ inthevicinity the existing urban edge of Aylesbury and green infrastructure and wooded habitats further east towards Bierton and the Thame Valley.

According to a letter on behalf of the communities secretary (41-leaf / 420 KB PDF), Javid considered that the proposal was not in accordance with the local development plan.

Aylesbury Vale District Council agreed with the developer that it could only demonstrate around a three year provide of land for housing development. National policy dictated, therefore, that Javid should consider local policies for the provide of housing to be out of date. The letter said that, unlike the planning inspector who held an inquiry into the appeal, the communities secretary considered that  policy RA2 whose purpose Javid said was to protect the identity of settlements and prevent their coalescence was  out of date; however, he felt competent to silent grant ‘some weight’ to it.

Javid gave “very significant weight” in the planning balance to the benefit of providing so multitudinous homes in an area where there had been a persistent below delivery of fresh housing. He also gave “very substantial weight” to the employment opportunities that would be created by the scheme and noted the benefits of improvements to drainage and the site’s accessible and sustainable location.

However, the communities secretary decided that these benefits of the proposal would not outweigh the harms that would be caused by allowing it to depart ahead.

Javid said the scheme would own a “very significant adverse impact on the character and appearance of the landscape”. He found it would remove solution landscape characteristics of two local character areas, “engulf[ing] historic field patterns and ridge and furrow”. He also concluded that the development “would own the undesirable effect of merging Aylesbury with Bierton with a loss of distinct village identity”.

The identified harms also included “the loss of 55 hectares of best and most versatile agricultural land”

Planning expert Matthew Fox of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: “This case demonstrates that Javid is pursuing the same approach as his predecessor and that a lack of housing provide will not of itself guarantee you a planning acquiesce. Matters such as preventing coalescence and impact on landscape character and appearance will persevere to be given significant weight even where the relevant plan policy does not own the primacy of development plan policy status but instead is treated as a material consideration, given it is deemed out of date.”  

“Promoters wishing to bring forward sites with policy challenges may desire to see for a draft local plan allocation to tip the planning balance as a material consideration where an early application is pursued There would also be merit in seeking to remove or sterilise some of the impact of any constraining plan policies from the emerging plan,” he said.

“The other solution point from this case is that it re-emphasises the desire to prove that your development is sustainable in light of the three sustainability pillars in the NPPF. This site was not considered to be sustainable for a number of reasons which proved to be a solution negative counterbalance against the undersupply of housing,” said Fox.

Reflecting on the early decisions Javid has made, planning expert Sarah Chapman of Pinsent Masons said: “Despite strong local opposition and members refusing to grant permission, it seems clear that Javid is prepared to grant acquiesce for schemes.  Recent decisions from the secretary of state indicate that he considers that the allocation of a site in the local plan effectively amounts to an ‘in principle’ mandate for development.”

“Where issues perhaps be resolved through design solutions secured through planning conditions or approval of reserved matters, Javid appears to grab a pragmatic view,” said Chapman. “However, what is clear is that sustainable development continues to be an overriding factor in those sites gaining the secretary of state’s backing.”